Fire Causes $1.5M Damage to Lube Facility


A fire on Oct. 26 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, destroyed a 11,250-square-foot warehouse building owned by South Dakota-based motor oil distributor Stern Oil Co., said Scott Stern, vice president of Stern Oil.

Stern told Lube Report that the fluids stored at the warehouse, predominantly were engine oils, hydraulic fluids, gear oils, greases, and some cutting fluids. He said the oil involved in the fire was predominantly ExxonMobil brand. We also handle some Petro-Canada fluids and Caterpillar fluids, he added. Stern said the companys client base consists of car dealerships, quick lubes, repair garages, fleets, construction companies and industrial manufacturing plants.

No company employees were hurt in the fire, Stern said. Our night crew leaves at 9 oclock, in the evening, he said. Theyre responsible for loading the trucks. When they left at 9 oclock, they had a normal shutdown process, and everything was fine. At approximately 4:30 in the morning, the blaze was reported by neighbors and passersby.

Jeff Hutcheson, fire marshal for the Council Bluffs Fire Department, told Lube Report that firefighters were called to the scene about 4:30 a.m. Hutcheson said about 65 firefighters from 14 area fire departments fought the fire, which was declared under control just before 1 p.m. that day.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Hutcheson said on Tuesday. Stern confirmed that the investigating agencies include the Iowa State Fire Marshals Office; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and the Mills County Sheriffs Department.

Stern said estimated damages exceed $1.5 million. A loss of this magnitude and of this high profile gets significant attention from those government regulatory agencies, he said. We respect their input, and their investigative processes are vital to determining what caused this.

He said the company continues gathering information about what quantity of inventory is salvageable and estimates on the tanks, equipment and the building itself. Stern said the warehouse had 24 storage tanks, ranging in size from 1,100 gallons up to 13,000 gallons each.

Stern said the company put contingency plans into effect last Thursday to ensure clients would still get service. He said the company has set up temporary warehousing adjacent to the facility that burned down, and is using tankers as bulk facilities. ExxonMobil has been helpful in resourcing oil products to Sterns other facilities to ensure deliveries to customers continue, he said. We havent missed a beat, Stern said.

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